At first glance, it's difficult to fathom why heralded power forward prospect Ben Simmons would commit to LSU on Monday morning over more prestigious basketball programs like Duke or Kentucky.the Class of 2015 standout's decision become clearer.
Simmons, Rivals.com's No. 6 prospect in the Class 0f 2015, felt most comfortable at LSU in part because of the presence of his godfather David Patrick. The LSU assistant played with Simmons' father in Australia and has previously landed a handful of top Aussie prospects while working at Saint Mary's, including Patrick Mills, Clint Steindl and Matthew Dellavedova.
"As soon as I got back [from a visit to LSU], I knew I wanted to go there," Simmons wrote in a USA Today blog entry Monday morning. "It's just like being around family there and that's important for me. I felt really comfortable committing early because I know that's where I want to be so I called my dad and my sister and told them what I was thinking.
"My dad said he felt really comfortable with the staff too - and that was all I needed to hear. That gave me even more confidence in my decision. If he had said anything like 'Maybe you should think about it more,' or anything like that I wouldn't be committed now."
The commitment from Simmons is a huge coup for an LSU program that is beginning to stockpile frontcourt talent under second-year coach Johnny Jones.
Many believe LSU will emerge as an NCAA tournament team this season thanks to the trio of returning all-SEC forward Johnny O'Bryant and promising freshman forwards Jarrell Martin and Jordan Mickey. O'Bryant averaged 13.6 points and 8.7 rebounds and posted 15 double-doubles last season, while the 6-foot-9 Martin is a McDonald's All-American with a smooth inside-outside game and the 6-foot-8 Mickey is a raw but athletic power forward.
Even though O'Bryant may leave for the NBA draft after this season, reinforcements will be ready to make up for the loss. Martin and Mickey will get experience this season and they'll be joined by four-star center Elbert Robinson in 2014 and by Simmons in 2015 if both are still at LSU by then.
Simmons may be the most intriguing prospect of all because of his skill level and high basketball IQ.
It's easy to tell that the 6-foot-10 forward is the son of a former pro basketball player because of his understanding of how to space the floor, move without the ball and set up his teammates for easy baskets. He can score from the paint or the perimeter, whether it's via mid-range jump shots, drives or with his back to the basket.
It has been more than seven years since LSU's 2006 Final Four appearance under John Brady and more than four years since the Tigers' last NCAA tournament appearance in the first season of Trent Johnson's tenure. The way Jones and his staff are thriving on the recruiting trail, it won't be long before LSU has returned to national relevancy again.
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